39th National Native American Day Of Mourning
Nov. 27, 2008, Thanksgiving (or thanks-"taking") Day
For the past four decades, United American Indians of New England have staged an alternative to America's shameless, self-aggrandizing fantasy of a holiday, "Thanksgiving." The members of UAINE call their rejection of this fantasy the National Day of Mourning. The events -- including a march, speeches, and other forms of gathering and protest -- will take place this year on November 26 (tomorrow), in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which was the supposed site of the "pilgrim" landing.
As the organizers explain on the UAINE site,
An annual tradition since 1970, Day of Mourning is a solemn, spiritual and highly political day. Many of us fast from sundown the day before through the afternoon of that day (and have a social after Day of Mourning so that participants in DOM can break their fasts). We are mourning our ancestors and the genocide of our peoples and the theft of our lands. NDOM is a day when we mourn, but we also feel our strength in political action. Over the years, participants in Day of Mourning have buried Plymouth Rock a number of times, boarded the Mayflower replica, and placed ku klux klan sheets on the statue of William Bradford, etc.
Regarding the American "Thanksgiving" myth, the United American Indians of New England also point out the following:
Here is the truth: The reason they talk about the pilgrims and not an earlier English-speaking colony, Jamestown, is that in Jamestown the circumstances were way too ugly to hold up as an effective national myth. For example, the white settlers in Jamestown turned to cannibalism to survive. Not a very nice story to tell the kids in school. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus "discovered" anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land.
The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod -- before they even made it to Plymouth -- was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry.
They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine down the hill called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.
The first official "Day of Thanksgiving" was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.
About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in "New England" were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression.
But back in 1970, the organizers of [a] fancy state dinner told Wamsutta he could not speak that truth. They would let him speak only if he agreed to deliver a speech that they would provide. Wamsutta refused to have words put into his mouth. Instead of speaking at the dinner, he and many hundreds of other Native people and our supporters from throughout the Americas gathered in Plymouth and observed the first National Day of Mourning. United American Indians of New England have returned to Plymouth every year since to demonstrate against the Pilgrim mythology.
On that first Day of Mourning back in 1970, Plymouth Rock was buried not once, but twice. The Mayflower was boarded and the Union Jack was torn from the mast and replaced with the flag that had flown over liberated Alcatraz Island. The roots of National Day of Mourning have always been firmly embedded in the soil of militant protest.
The United American Indians of New England welcome non-Native supporters to stand with them tomorrow during their National Day of Mourning. For further information see their website, http://www.uaine.org.
Here's some raw footage of last year's event:
If you live in the United States, do you have any plans for tomorrow that differ from the normal white American modes of giving thanks?
As for me, if I lived anywhere near Plymouth, I would join the events described above. Since I don't, my plans for tomorrow differ little from what I wrote about what I did on that day last year:
I watched a DVD that I'd found a few days earlier at my local library. Along with those who were willing to watch it with me, I learned about the histories of the Native Americans who used to live where I do now, before people of my race sent the few remaining ones out to western "reservations."
I also took my dog for a long walk, and tried to imagine what this area and its people were like back then, before my people stole it. I struggled with how I should feel about that, and what I could do about it.
Along the way, I told a friend who greeted me with "Happy Thanksgiving!" that that was a terrible thing to say, and that I wasn't feeling "thankful" for the results of the genocidal past that landed me here. That literally "landed" me here.
Later, during the annual Big Dinner, I insisted on an awkward moment of mourning and reverence for the absent peoples, the original inhabitants, who taught my ancestors how to raise and prepare several types of the food we were about to eat, and some of whose remains might be right here, underneath us.